When it comes to overcoming difficult emotions, it can be challenging to know where to begin. It can feel tempting to push away negative feelings that we don’t believe we can handle. We might use distraction methods to cope day-to-day. Or we might suppress our responses in attempts to conceal how we really feel. Unfortunately, unchecked stress can soon evolve into longer term mental health problems and further distress.
The root of stress and anxiety.
Social media is a growing influence in the lives of young people now. Picture-perfect images and edited highlight reels often make children and teenagers feel that their life does not compare to those of others. This is an issue for adults equally. But kids don’t necessarily have the maturity to be able to tackle feelings of inadequacy that might be triggered from social media platforms.
Bullying and peer pressure are long standing issues for young people. Teenage popularity is measured even more critically in the age of social media ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Educational pressure can also be a common source of stress. Or perhaps your child has emotions they are struggling to deal with that do not have a specific source. No matter where anger or stress might be coming from, the emotions of our children deserve to be seen and validated.
Your support as a parent.
For children and young adults, it is important to lay strong foundations of communication to aide resilience and consciousness. As parents, you might feel a desire to rush in and ‘save’ your child from pain. Your nurture instinct will be telling you to protect your kids from harm. The best approach you can take is to step gently and to employ the most crucial method of communication that exists - listening. It’s from listening that we can then engage in proper conversation.
Endeavor to acknowledge the significance of how your child feels. What might appear to be a minor or easily solved issue to a parent might be something that is causing a significant amount of distress for the young person experiencing it. The next time your child opens up, hold back the impulse to interrupt with your thoughts too prematurely. Hear them out in full. You might be surprised at what you might learn.
How mindfulness can help.
As much as we might like to as parents, we cannot eradicate the risk of suffering from our children’s lives. We can protect them from a great deal. Yet there will always be elements of life that are beyond our control. Shielding them from everything that may hurt them can cause harm in itself. Provide your kids with the coping skills they need to survive and thrive as they grow up.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of coming back to the self in order to check in with true emotions. It is a process of truthful observation to figure out our emotions and feelings. It is not a practice that is reserved for yogis or advanced meditation experts. We can all benefit from practicing a little mindfulness each and every day - our kids included!
Here are 3 simple and accessible methods of mindfulness to try out this week:
1) Develop a conscious bedtime routine.
The period of time just before we go to sleep is precious. Embrace this quiet period of the day as an opportunity to be mindful. Set aside twenty minutes to sit with your child (either in their room or elsewhere depending on their age) in order to practice some meditation together. Or simply talk through any surfacing feelings. Remove smartphones and other tech distractions to promote a fuller sense of consciousness. Doing so will amplify your chances of deeper and more nourishing sleep patterns.
2) Create a habit of pause before action.
Kids respond to their intuition in ways that many adults might struggle to. However, it is also important for children of all ages to learn to connect up their motivations with their actions. Encourage your child to allow themselves a few moments of thought before making a choice. Don’t rush them to decide on a meal in café. Provide them with a few specified minutes to think through their true desires. Small moments of consciousness will help them to appreciate the power of clearer and more authentic thinking.
3) Debrief together as a family after school or work.
Creating a ritual of open discussion as a family will set a powerful routine of mindfulness in your home. Instead of crashing haphazardly into the house and heading straight for the computer or the television, collect together in the kitchen for a snack as you talk through your days. Empower your kids to talk freely without any pressurizing questions about their achievements. Use open questioning to help them reflect on their day. Communicate how important their thoughts are to encourage further mindfulness.
Leading by example as you progress.
From infancy to teenage, kids pay surprisingly close attention to the behaviors and emotions of their primary carers. Parents are innately human. We should not pressure ourselves to achieve any self-perceived version of ‘perfection’. Instead, consciously focus your energies by setting a positive example of decision-making and mindful rituals.
Witnessing a parent become calmer and clearer minded after a short period of meditation can help them see the value of such an activity. Seeing you take appropriate time to think through your decisions will help validate the importance of doing so in their own lives. Be the change you wish to see in the eyes of your children!